The War on War
The “War on Poverty.” The “War on Drugs.” The “War on Terror.”
It seems the war analogy is alive and well in some instances, but we are seeing its decline in the church. We live in a very PC culture, and understandably, a very war weary culture. This emotion is affecting us in many ways. Talk of the “Crusades” is all from a very negative, very shameful point of view for the most part, and Christians have tried to distance themselves from those events. Likewise, songs like “Onward Christian Soldier” just aren’t sung anymore. Christians do not want to be associated with war. They have seen much done in the name of religion that is wrong and don’t want to contribute to that.
But what are we losing by moving away from a war time mindset?
The War at Hand
The thing is, the Bible tells us that we most certainly ARE at war. And this is not a metaphor. It’s actually happening, and it’s happening right now. The problem is that people have skewed WHO we are at war with and WHAT we are at war over. So many Christians have entered into a “war like” mentality against other people, and the war they are fighting is usually over some moral issue.
It is a clever enemy who can get the opponent to start turning on itself instead of fighting him. Not that I’m a clever enemy, but when I played basketball I always knew the game was pretty much won if I saw my opponents bickering with each other. Their attention was no longer on me or my team’s game plan.
So what is this war that the Bible talks about? Who are we at war with and why? Who is our enemy?
It is NOT people who don’t believe in Jesus as their Savior. It is NOT people who don’t practice the same ethics we do. This is NOT a war for morality or for people to be good or do better or create a society I feel more comfortable in. It is so much more important than that.
Perhaps the most well known passage of the Bible that speaks to this is found in Ephesians 6:11-13 which says:
Furthermore, 1 Peter 5:8-9 warns us, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.”
So what’s this enemy doing? What is he fighting us over? Why does he want to devour us?
We can look at one of the very first passages of the Bible, and where we first learn of our adversary. In Genesis 3 Satan met Eve in the Garden and schemed right away to sow distrust in her heart, to try to destroy the relationship between God and His sons and daughters. He didn’t come out and declare himself the enemy, or even declare war. He is subtle and cunning and very, very effective. Trying to keep people separated from God has been his M.O. since the beginning.
Jesus speaks to this in the parable of the seeds. “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. “Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. “Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great…Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:4-12).We live in a world where most people have had the Gospel, in some form, given to them. Yet our enemy is at large and is doing what he did from the beginning- everything he can to keep people from accepting that word with joy.
Jesus further warns us in John 10:10, referring to Satan, that “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.” He wants to tear down anything that would build God’s Kingdom.
The apostle Paul was greatly aware of these truths that Jesus taught. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 he says “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” And further on in 11:3 he voices concern over those who were claiming to be Christians, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
Our enemy is not only working to keep those who don’t know Christ from ever knowing Christ, but he is also at work on those of us who do know Christ to keep us from being effective for Him.
War of Glory
This war is over the glory of God and the joy of His people. Not only is God’s name more known and praised (as it ought to be) when more people know Him and believe in Him, but those people are given the joy and peace that He intended for them all along. Our enemy wants none of that. He wants the glory for himself.
Thus, he would love for us to keep shoving the war time mindset under the rug.
Think about it. What are people like during war?
The Christian’s War Time Mentality
A soldier is trained and constantly sharpening skills. A soldier is disciplined and a soldier takes commands.
We live so much of our lives as if we have no commander but ourselves, where I hope God is helping me accomplish my dreams. This mindset is not found among New Testament Christians. Rather than hoping for God’s blessing on their dreams, they longed to enlist in the army of God and be useful in the mission that Christ gave them.
Paul wrote to Timothy:
“Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus…Teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.”
Soldiers spread the needed message.
Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life.
Unless of course, they forget that they are soldiers.
I have been (still) reading the book “A Chance to Die, the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael.” That faithful woman knew that she was a soldier and it changed everything. It drew her to prayer and to action. It drew her to desperation to see lives saved instead of becoming casualties.
In one of the many letters she wrote she said,
“Dear, you are coming to a battlefield. You cannot spend too much time with Him alone. The keys of the powers of the world to come are not turned by careless fingers. So few are willing to pay the price of the knowledge of God. They play through life, even Christian life, even missionary life.”
She prayed for the girls she raised “Dear God, make them good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Let them never turn back in the day of battle. Let them be winners and helpers of souls…”
In another letter, “You are warriors, and when did warriors ask for an easy time? or no wounds? or no heart-breaks? But He healeth the broken heart and bindeth up our wounds.”
Amy’s ability to see herself as a soldier enabled her to serve and give and endure. It impassioned her to share the truth and love of Christ with people who desperately needed to hear of Him.
The Sunny Side of War
War does more than make us serious and focused. War makes us see the light.
When life is precious to us we see the beauty of the sun in the sky. We are grateful for the breath we take. We savor the food that passes through our lips. We bask in the little moments of connection and touch and warmth. We cherish our relationships. We love people now and for what they can be.
We see glimpses of the Kingdom to come and are moved to keep fighting to bring others into that glorious place with our glorious Father.
No wonder Paul was joyful though he was imprisoned. No wonder Amy Carmichael was known not only as disciplined and strict, but as happy and gentle and a lover of beauty. They had eyes to see.
May we remember that we are soldiers. May we ask, as Paul did, that God would give us ‘mighty inner strength through His Holy Spirit.” May we go to our Commander daily to receive instruction, to receive perspective, and to receive power. May we not be rendered ineffective. May we live and love with the passion due our mission.